Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What do you envision the Jacob’s Well Natural Area to be? Let Master Planners RVI hear from you!

RVI, a landscape planning consultant firm located in Austin, is in the process of creating a Master Plan for the Jacob’s Well Natural Area. Their task is to interpret the community’s vision for the site. RVI recently held a forum at the Wimberley Community Center that welcomed public input on the development and management of the property. With the addition of interviews of stakeholders such as county and WVWA staff, JWNA volunteers, and a committee of local representatives, RVI has created the first phase of the plan.

This ongoing and open dialogue has generated some considerations that WVWA would like to share. After years on the ground, WVWA can offer parameters that fully represent the best of our ongoing work and research. But no matter what your ideas or concerns may be, please take the time to add to this vision.

WVWA feels that in light of the current water climate and growing population pressures, the decision to restore the 100 acres back to a perfectly balanced ecosystem is an idea whose time has come. Jacob’s Well has long been a site of great beauty and wonder, and a place held sacred by past cultures that have lived on its banks. Today it still is at the heart of the Wimberley Valley.

We would like to see the site identified and developed as a natural heritage site, maintained as a nature preserve and not a recreational park, and function as a place where both children and adults can connect with nature. Although we all enjoy camping, dogs, sports, and bicycling, these are high-impact activities and are not recommended as they will overrun the site’s sensitive resources. The conservation easements currently in place will help insure that land and water conservation comes first.

The focus of visitors to Jacob’s Well should be one of immersion in nature, which inevitably leads to joy, and is naturally followed by a sense of stewardship. Access by trails would invite discovery in an unstructured style that sparks the imagination. The Children in Nature movement has pointed out that American children are averaging 7 minutes a day in time out-of-doors, which has led to a host of stressed behaviors. The same is true for adults - time spent in nature serves to alleviate a deeply seated sense of disconnection we feel with the natural order of things.

WVWA envisions the only new structure to be a stewardship center, to share the extensive knowledge we have gained from living so close to the aquifer. Built with the green building practices of wind and solar energy, rainwater harvesting, water re-use and waterless toilets, the building would not only sit lightly on the land, but serve as a model for sustainable design. There would be no additional structures, not even kiosks, but in fact further “undeveloping” of the site by lessening the current amount of impervious cover and removing any buildings in the flood plain.

The site has been severely impacted by development and over grazing in the past and is need of restoration. Priority should be placed on enhancing plant diversity, aquifer recharge, protecting water quality, and creating wildlife habitat.

Facilities and funding should be provided for the valuable scientific research that happens at the site. It is this research that has enabled us to make these specific recommendations. Partnerships with local organizations, volunteer groups, schools, and universities should also be supported, as with developing a formal relationship with Texas State’s River Systems Institute. All partners should be actively involved in developing a groundwater management program that protects not only the flow of Jacob’s Well, but all Wimberley Valley aquifer springs, even in times of drought.

Please write, call, or email your comments to:

RVI Planning Team
712 Congress Ave, Suite 300
Austin, Texas 78701

Barbara Austin

Chris Crawford

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